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African-American Studies Resources in the Special Collections Research Center

This is a guide to manuscripts, books, periodicals, and other materials in the Special Collections Research Center that may be useful for researching or teaching about African Americans in the United States from the colonial period to the present.

Introduction to the SCRC's resources for the study of African American History and Life

The list of resources in this guide is not comprehensive. The SCRC has many other collections that include some items relating to African Americans. Most of our antebellum collections have some mention of enslaved people or slavery, whether in letters, diaries, or business records.

Please note that some of the language in the titles of these sources is outdated and/or offensive. As part of our larger efforts to make our archives more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and representative, we are working to update the language in our libguides and finding aids as appropriate. In some cases, such as titles or LOC subject headings, the original language remains unchanged and reflects language used during the time of the source's creation.

The general collections of Swem Library also support research in this subject area, including newspapers, magazines, government documents, published memoirs, etc.  Among the major sources are:


  • Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations and the Records, HD1471.U5 R43
  • Slavery in Ante-bellum Southern industries, E443.S53
  • Slavery: Source Material and Critical Literature (Lost Cause Press), various call numbers
  • Black Biographical Dictionaries, 1790-1950, E185.96 B528 1987
  • Papers of the NAACP, E184-185 (several different call numbers in that range)
  • Records of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1895-1992, E185.86 N34
  • New Deal Agencies and Black America, E185.5 N48

If you get stuck along the way, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're here to help. Just click the HELP tab at the top of any page in this guide to get contact information for Special Collections Research Center staff.

Swem Library has created other guides that will be of interest to researchers including a Research Paper Writing and Citation Guide, Primary Sources Guide, and Copyright Guide.


Best of luck with your research!


Access Tools

Special Collections Research Center Access Tools :There are a variety of tools available to guide you in finding materials in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) including video tutorials. Don't forget that you also may come into the SCRC in person and consult with the staff member on duty for guidance.

Swem Library also produces video tutorials to assist you in How to Read & Understand Catalog Records for BooksFinding Full-Text Electronic Books & Documents in Swem Library's CatalogFind it: A Basic Guide (note this discovery tool's brand name is Summon).

Search SCRC Collections Database


Suggested Subject Headings:

  • African Americans
  • African Americans--Education--Virginia
  • African Americans--Religion